When Sami Brady packed up her family and moved to California, actress Alison Sweeney got a new lease on life.
It was 2014 and Alison was juggling her fictional life as Sami on the daytime drama “Days of Our Lives,” hosting the NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser” and her real life as a wife and mother of two.
“I did both shows for seven years. Sometimes I was taping (DOOL) during the day and then doing ‘Biggest Loser’ at night,” she said.
When Sami, her character of 22 years, left fictional Salem, Alison exited the show. Not long after, she and the weight-loss reality show parted ways after 13 seasons.
An actress since she was a child, Alison, now 39, said professional multitasking took its toll.
“I didn’t sleep well and I was stressed out all the time,” she said. “I was a hamster on the wheel and I didn’t see a way off. ... I couldn’t seem to stop. I couldn’t take a break. I suffered for it. My health suffered for it.”
Leaving “Days” was planned almost a year in advance. Alison had played Sami Brady since 1993. She was 16 when she was cast. The time had come to rearrange some priorities in her life.
22 years as Sami on “Days of Our Lives”
13 seasons as host of “The Biggest Loser.”
“I found an opportunity to make a change, for my family’s well-being, for my mental health and well-being,” she said of her reasons for leaving the soap opera.
She and her husband Dave Sanov, a California Highway investigator, have a son Ben, 11, and a daughter Megan, 7.
The change allowed Alison to take on new creative endeavors, which include traveling to St. Louis to speak at 3 p.m. Saturday during the Working Women’s Survival Show in St. Charles, Mo. She will talk about the need to stay connected with other moms to stay strong, the struggle to balance work and family, and growing up as a child actor.
It’s really important for me to share my story. There are lots of problems I deal with that other women do, too. It’s hard to ask for help sometimes. It can be isolating.
Alison Sweeney on why she will be in St. Louis
“It’s really important for me to share my story,” she said. “There are lots of problems I deal with that other women do, too. It’s hard to ask for help sometimes. It can be isolating.”
She said she has realized that she has to be engaged in whatever she is doing exclusively, whether on the set making a movie or raising her kids.
“Multitasking can be your enemy. Time management works for me, but also it’s a mindset: You have to let go of guilt and regret, and questioning yourself and your decisions. It may be better that when I am at work, I am at work. Men seem to be able to do that! If the school calls, I tell them to call my mom or my husband. We need to make that OK.”
Hosting “The Biggest Loser” inspired her to be a healthier person, she said. As someone who struggled with her weight over the years, it was easy for her to empathize with contestants as they worked to lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Never one to rest on her past accomplishments, Alison has written two non-fiction books and three novels — a new one comes out in April — writes a monthly column for Redbook magazine and continues to act and co-executive produce movies for the Hallmark Channel films based on the best-selling Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder series. She also has directed episodes of daytime drama “General Hospital.”
“You know, I’ve always been a storyteller and as I get older I’ve found other opportunities for creativity. I’ve found new passions,” she said.
Her acting career was an accident.
“My mom is a violinist, but no one in my family was an actor or knew anyone in show business.”
Alison got her first paying job at age 4 after her preschool teacher told her mother that Alison was such an outgoing child that she would do well at auditions.
“Of course, this is L.A., so they took me to this audition (for a Kodak commercial) and I got the job,” she said. “I loved every second of it.”
From that point forward, Alison said she begged her parents to let her go into acting.
“I always drove it. They didn’t push me. But there were rules, and I had to earn it.”
She points to her family as the reason she never fell into the “aging child star” syndrome of drugs, alcohol and bad behavior.
My parents were really strong people. Our family was really grounded. I was aware but not tempted.
Alison Sweeney on how she avoided drugs and alcohol
“My parents were really strong people. Our family was really grounded,” she said. “I was aware but not tempted.”
Alison her husband Dave have known each other since they were kids.
“I had a crush on him,” Alison said, laughing. When she was 21, they reconnected and started dating. They married in 2000 when she was 24 and have built their life “on the periphery of Hollywood.”
“His job (as an investigator) is so real. He’s so practical,” she said of her husband. “It’s a very healthy perspective, with two totally different jobs.”
At a glance
Here’s what you need to know about the Working Women’s Survival Show.
- When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
- Where: St. Charles Convention Center, off Interstate 70 at the Fifth Street exit on the corner of Veterans Memorial Highway and Fairgrounds Road, St. Charles, Mo. See website for directions.
- What you’ll find: Hundreds of products to purchase, complimentary manicures, makeovers and waxes, haircuts, fitness demonstrations, fashion shows, live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, food sampling, wine garden.
- Parking: Free at the convention center. Plus, free shuttle service every 15 minutes from the lower lot of Ameristar Casino.
- Tickets: $9.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors over 60 and children 6 to 11. Children under 6 are free. Two-day wristband is $13.
- Information on exhibitors and ticket purchase: www.wwssonline.com, box office days of show only and Dierberg’s.
Things to look for at the Working Women’s Survival Show
- 12:30 p.m., self-defense tactics from Cabela
- 2 p.m., The Goodwill DIY Show. Judi Diamond of WIL-FM and the Goodwill Girls show you how to turn a purchase from Goodwill into a treasure — from clothing to furniture and home decor. See the show also at 4 p.m. Saturday.
- 3 p.m. Twice Adopted, musical family from Branson that sings Broadway, gospel and other tunes. Also see them at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
- 5 p.m., Hair stylist Michael O’Rourke will demonstrate his creative approach to cutting hair, using audience members. He will repeat the demonstration at 11 a.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
- 9 a.m. Ultimate Girls’ 5K Run; go to wwssonline.com to register
- Noon and 5 p.m., spring and summer fashion shows
- 12:30 p.m., Amy Emme, former Olympic trainer, motivational speaker and success coach. See her talk also at the same time Sunday.
- 3 p.m., actress and author Alison Sweeney on the Main Stage
- 2:30 p.m. Pork Cook-off on the Culinary Stage